Senior leaders have an accurate view of the quality of child protection services for children in Derbyshire, a focused visit of the authority has found.
Leaders are committed to investing in the right conditions for good social work to flourish, although these are not consistently in place across the local authority.
“Appropriate plans are underway to provide more support to social workers and increase capacity to reduce caseloads for social workers. Staff are positive about working for Derbyshire and value the training and development on offer,” the report said.
However, inspectors noted that although no children were found to be unsafe, the quality of child protection work is too inconsistent. The identification of the risk of harm to children when child protection work begins is not clear enough.
The report highlights:
- Senior leaders understand their service well.
- Leaders are rightly focused on the significant increase in the number of child protection plans in the last three years.
- A ‘keen and energised’ workforce is committed to working for Derbyshire county council.
- Social work practice is mostly compliant with statutory requirements and is clearly focused on getting the basics right.
- Strategic oversight of children at risk of exploitation is well developed.
- Children’s views are captured in assessments.
However, inspectors also outlined that many families with children subject to protection plans have complex needs, including high levels of parental alcohol and substance misuse. Inspectors saw plans with unrealistic expectations of parents, requiring them to overcome their addictions in unlikely timescales.
For a few children, there has been delay in addressing neglect. While social workers are able to articulate children’s experiences to inspectors, this is not well reflected in the written records.
The quality of social work planning for children is inconsistent and core groups and review meetings are not sufficiently child-focused. The supervision of staff, although regular, is not always directed at ensuring that sufficient progress is being made to improve children’s circumstances.
Inspectors concluded that the quality of child protection planning is too variable. Risk for children is not clearly identified in assessments. This leads to a lack of clarity in planning to ensure that actions are appropriately focused on improving children’s circumstances.
Independent chairing of conferences and reviews does not consistently focus participants on the risks of harm to children or ensure that plans help parents and carers to understand what needs to change.
Finally the borough should address the fact that management oversight and the supervision of staff does not consistently review progress of plans to avoid drift and delay for all children.